Are you ready for a fresh start? Spring is the ideal time to let go of the habits, beliefs, possessions and relationships that hold you back.
“Spring is nature’s ‘New Year,’” says Mark Flanagan, LMSW, MPH, MA, a social worker at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. “The weather gets warmer and people begin to explore the environment around them. This natural period of increased activity can be a great time to set new intentions and let go of unhelpful habits.”
Perhaps you want to pursue a new hobby, eat healthier, get more physical activity or form new friendships. Maybe you want to be kinder to yourself, let go of an unhealthy relationship or declutter your home. Change can be overwhelming, so try the following tactics to set yourself up for success.
The right time to make a change
If you want to set new goals or pursue a different way of living, start today.
“The philosopher Alan Watts wisely said, ‘You are under no obligation to be the same person you were five minutes ago,’” says Flanagan. “Anytime is a good time to make a change, and now is the best time.”
Determine what is holding you back
Consider what is holding you back from being the person you want to be and living the life you want to live. Flanagan suggests asking yourself, “Is what I’m doing working to make my life rich, full and meaningful?”
“If the answer is yes, we would say it is workable and do not need to change it,” he says. “If the answer is no, we call it unworkable and can consider alternatives that work better.”
Steer away from labeling aspects of your life as good or bad, right or wrong.
“Self-criticism can prevent us from making positive changes because we start viewing ourselves as unworthy,” explains Flanagan. “Instead, we should focus on the kind of life we want to create and whether certain actions or thoughts will help us create that life. This focus frees us to make positive changes by investing time and energy in what we want rather than what we don’t want.”
How to make progress on your goals
If you know you want to make changes in your life but aren’t sure where to start, Flanagan recommends this process:
Journal your thoughts. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes to journal about the challenges in your life, he suggests. Set a time limit for 15 minutes so you don’t get bogged down in negativity.
Assess what you wrote. Take a break, and then review what you wrote.
Create a list. “Make a list of your smallest to biggest issues,” says Flanagan. “Focus on the area in which you can make the smallest positive change first. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with a huge challenge and end up doing nothing.”
Determine your starting step. What is the smallest step you can take toward your goal today? Once you take action and accomplish the first step, you will gain energy for the next one.
Take another step and keep going. Tackle another small goal on your list. Gradually work on more difficult goals using the momentum you have created from early wins.
“The idea is to get in the habit of making small goals, accomplishing those goals and identifying new, slightly harder challenges,” explains Flanagan. “Your successes will propel you to make meaningful changes in your life in a manageable way.”
Prepare in advance for setbacks
“Throughout your transformation journey, you will inevitably encounter setbacks,” he says. “You can expect this as a normal part of change, rather than a derailing catastrophe. Just like a garden, you may not see the full landscape of growth until some time has passed.”
The key to successfully making changes in your life – without getting overwhelmed and quitting – is slow, intentional progress.
“Adopt the mantra ‘progress is progress, no matter how small,’ and you will chart a course for long-lasting positive transformation,” says Flanagan.
Learn more ways to reduce stress and improve your well-being.